Connection through Conversation: An Interview with Lilyana Latiff

lilyJoota

“Joota is bringing sexy back.”

Earlier this year, Stampede had the opportunity to work with Joota, Malaysia’s very own social networking app focusing on building connection through conversation. This concept is new to the realm of social media, where it currently primarily focuses on the people instead of content. Joota is a turning point, a challenge that we are all so lucky to be part of.

Having the chance to talk to Lilyana Latiff, the Co-Founder of Joota, or fondly known as Lily, I could not help thinking that I would definitely want her in my circle of girl friends (we both have short attention span too). Perpetually animated and assertive at the same time, a conversation with someone as positive as Lily energises me that we both never realised that time passed by in a flash.

Hi Lily! How’s it going? On behalf of the team, we’d like to thank you for spending time for this interview. To start, could you tell us about yourself and your role in Joota?

Hi Zana! I’m good, thanks, how about yourself?

Where do we start? Before Joota, I had quite a “colourful” career. Even though I was trained in Computer Science, I definitely went beyond programming. I had done corporate training, e-learning and courseware development as an Instructional Designer, web development, dabbled in web design even, project management, IT consulting and even event management (of the multi-million dollar kind). Basically my inherent interest in combining both art and science in whatever I do, allowed me to play on both side of the fence. Some say I am just nuts or have short-attention span!

By the time I co-founded Joota with Ashran and Fauzi, I had already started multiple business ventures. But Joota was to be my life-defining passion. In the first phase of Joota, I was largely in charge of managing product development. And when you are a startup with no team, you start from the very beginning. From the idea inception (which took some time); business model and product inception; finding a team to build a prototype and then taking them into multiple alpha, beta versions of the product; managing budgets and multiple teams; overlooking infrastructure growth and much more – we built this city of rock and roll from scratch.

Joota team in the early years!
Joota team in the early years!

With the launch version of Joota coming out September last year, I now look at user acquisition and content strategies – which I think is tougher than product development. You know that one person who goes out there and convinces people and businesses that “hey you need Joota, man” – that is me. I am your girl for that. It is definitely no small task.

I would say my current role in Joota largely marketing. I go out and seal partnerships, I find new ways in which communities can use Joota, I do A LOT of training and education programs, I do quite a number of interviews and basically getting the word out. But that is not to say I don’t have anything technical to look at. I still have SEO strategies to worry about, social media strategies to oversee and implement, and look at analytics of user behavior on Joota, and constantly keep an eye on my competitors and shifts in the market.

Managing Joota is a constant adrenaline rush. I could not ask for anything better.

Definitely love that Jefferson Starship reference!

Lily, we at Stampede are impressed with Joota principle – this idea about engaging users through the mutual interest in content instead of people – which is really new. As everyone have heard, it is now the age of the millennials where this me-me-me centric attitude is prevalent.

Tell us more about this principle, please?

Before Friendster, MySpace and Facebook, you use Internet only for email and searches. Email is very private and searching is a “nameless” task. Social networking sites have managed to get everyone to be a contributor to the internet, more so than ever before. Why? Because it opened up the “self” to be heard across the globe.

Social media fuels this inherent need for the individual to be “connected” to someone else. The fact that a “named” person can say something and add to the global conversation is very powerful.However, social media has swung the other extreme. Now everyone wants to say something, and not everything that is said is of worth or of value. A lot of things that are being shared on the Internet is more of the same thing, it does not help with the human condition, nor does it add to humanity’s body of knowledge, and what is worse is that people have become more bold to the point of being uncivic and rude – because you feel that you can still hide behind some IP address.

This is where Joota comes in. Its purpose is to cut away the “noise” and promote knowledge sharing. Evidently, Joota may not be for everyone. But our aspiration is that the philosophy of Joota transcends to all internet users. Internet users need to bring back that balance onto the internet.

It is not just about social conversations, but it is also about knowledge sharing – which was the foundation of the creation of the World Wide Web.

Joota is bringing sexy back.

You bet we do.

Surely there are challenges to have Joota as this platform to cultivate the idea of having a group of likeminded people gathering together to talk about their interests more so than about… themselves?

Well of course. You could say the challenges are on several fronts:

Identifying communities that share content all the time – which is not as prevalent as you think. Most Facebookers or Twitterists share their feelings or thoughts or status update, but not really knowledge or content sharing. For Joota to work, we really need to start with communities that are naturally dealing with written or published information on a daily basis.

Getting these communities on board – we have to convince them to move away from whatever platform that they are used to, or to integrate with whatever platform that they are using and making their daily job/tasks easier. If they are so used to Facebook or Twitter, we have to show how easy it is to organize their topics in visual form.

Constantly tweaking the product and tweaking the way people use the product in order to finally meet Joota’s goals and aspiration.

Seeing that Joota is one of the user experience work Stampede is fully engaged in, could you tell us if you have a standard UI/UX workflow that you conduct in Joota?

Honestly, we are a startup. Joota is not a very big team, there are times we could not afford a lengthy UI/UX design process. A lot of the time we do stuff was based on common sense. Having said that, of course we do implement certain tools and methods.

In conception, we start with a mental model of the user and how they want to achieve a certain task. We also draw inspirations from the existing concept of existing similar web apps as well as through observation. Ideas have to come from somewhere.

Then we get into wireframes. The wireframes then get turned to design. Some complex UI may get turned to actual high definition prototypes. And then it gets coded into the Joota framework. Tested, staged and released. A star is born.

During staging, we may get some users to give us feedback. However, we get a lot more feedback once a feature goes live.

joota-mac

Of course, we do take into account that  UI and UX is everything to a software or application. The process and choice of tools are something that Joota wants and continually will improve on. But as a business owner, I also have to weigh between go-to-market speeds against lengthy, yet quality assured development processes.

Sometimes business demands that we short-cut certain processes. This is a constant battle.

Joota is a journey and we are continuously working towards improvement.

If you must know, we are so delighted to be working with the Joota team. What brings to the decision of engaging Stampede to take care of the user experience aspect of the new Joota?

The decision came about largely after the first Joota front page “re-skinning”.

Basically we think Stampede has a “thinking” team. I think it is extremely important that Joota hires contractors that also help do the thinking for us. Stampede is not afraid to question certain decisions and we also like the fact that Stampede is not only about design, but also our sounding board regarding Joota’s user experience.

So, how has the experience been so far working with us?

We could probably divide this into three components: the experience working with Stampede as a team for people factor, our UX consultation process for technical factor and our grasp of Joota’s goals and executing that into a working product to conclude.

It has been great! We love the Stampede team, nothing further could be said.

As for the consultation process, it has been a breeze. So far setting up something simple as Basecamp Discussion keeps the ideas flowing when it comes to improving the UX and UI. We also appreciate bringing in your own friends and family to test out Joota.

Maybe in the next round, we could install a tool like KissMetrics or similar tools to gather data about how people use Joota.

We love you too! And yes, we will definitely look into utilising big data more.

This has been such a refreshing session, Lily. Thank you again for spending time for this and we at Stampede could not thank you and Joota team enough for including us in this knowledge sharing revolution, if that is the apt description for Joota’s mission.

I like that. Thank you also for having me!

Joota has always been looking for input from new and current users alike in order to make the experience better. You may get an account by signing up at joota.com. For news on Joota, check out the blog.

Originally published on Stampede Blog

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